Arturo Vidal: Proving His Worth To FC Barcelona
Football fans have their opinions about certain players and their characteristics. Such perceptions do not come by accident but via observation over time. Fans are intelligent. More often than not, their judgment is good. However, there are occasions where it isn't justified. Take Barcelona's summer signing, Arturo Vidal.
When Barca announced the former Bayern Munich midfielder's signing, Barca fans and journalists quickly criticised the move. Many claimed Vidal lacked the technical qualities a Barcelona midfielder requires, that he didn't belong in the same fold as Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.
They questioned the Chilean's physical approach as their Catalans are far from a physical team. Initially, their arguments seemed to have a base. Signing Arda Turan from Atletico Madrid in 2015 was a mistake. The Turk flopped at the Nou Camp.
Rather than follow the former Atletico man's path, the Chilean walked in another physical midfielder's boots, the Brazilian superstar Paulinho Bezerra. The former Spurs player signed from the Chinese Super League and proved to sceptics that a bit of argy-bargy can thrive in the Blaugrana set-up. When he wasn't muscling people, Paulinho scored 22 goals and 10 assists across all competitions.
While Vidal needed time for opportunities to arrive, he knows exactly how to take his chances. After a couple timely, solid displays, the new man earned Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde's attention. Consequently, Vidal started the Cules' last six fixtures.
Everyone knows Barcelona prioritises possession. The Chilean lags behind his new mates for technical skill. Instead, he uses his body to shield the ball and shrug off pressing opponents. His positioning allows him to pass accurately and efficiently.
Hardworking, Vidal never disappears during matches. He involves himself from one box to the other, covering space, making relevant tackles, marking opponents and throwing his body against all sorts of incoming shots.
The 31-year-old rarely chooses the wrong option or hesitates. He is always ready to sacrifice himself in tracking back, whether he or a teammate lost the ball.
His scoring threat cannot be ignored. The Chilean knows when to surge forward. He threatens at vital moments, already bagging two goals and three assists in 15 games. Perhaps most importantly, Vidal developed a strong relationship on the pitch with Lionel Messi despite being the man who hassled and harried the Argentine maestro into two Copa America final defeats. Players who don't get on with Leo rarely stay long in the Catalan capital.
The duo demonstrated chemistry on the playing field several times this season. Their combination came to the fore during Barcelona's recent La Liga fixture against Levante. Vidal fetched the ball from Luis Suarez and fed Messi with a beautiful one-touch pass. As he does, the Argentine converted perfectly.
Vidal's early work makes it evident his transfer is a success but we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. The former Bayern Munich man will play a huge role in Barcelona's campaign as the season progresses. He will be a leading figure just as he was with Bayern, Juventus and the Chilean national team.
Not one to be subtle, Vidal answers physical opponents who try to bully Barcelona. He can be counted on to prevent embarrassments like the Champions League reversal to Roma last season. As he hunts down the treble this term, Ernesto Valverde must keep his faith in the Chilean midfielder. Vidal possesses qualities unique to the side that should make the journey easier. Barcelona bought a lethal weapon even if they don't yet realise his full potency. It's only a matter of time before he goes off.